The Three Joints of the Arm 手之三節

能夠由中心按次序至手指的動,就是拳譜所講的節節貫串。要練至全身節節貫串,並非一年半載之功可成。初學者可先嘗試將手臂貫串,練習時先留意肩、肘、腕三節。整個手臂像一條蛇那樣游動,身體其他部分順其自然可也,因為在初學時實在不能兼顧如此多關節。練架子時,無論手臂的進退都要肩先動, 肘次之, 腕最後才動。在這過程中,都離不開一開一合。通常是左手開,右手便合。如雙手往同一的方向推動時,一定與身體互相對盪。

Being able to move sequentially from the center to the fingers is what is referred to as “connected/integrated section by section” in Taijiquan. To develop this ability throughout the entire body cannot be accomplished in a short time. A beginner could first try to do so with the arms by initially focusing on the three joints: shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The whole arm slithers like a snake while the rest of the body just move naturally. This is because in the beginning stage, one simply cannot focus on too many joints at once. In form practice, regardless of whether the arm moves forward or backward, the shoulder has to move first, followed by the elbow, and finally the wrist. This process must involve opening and closing. Normally, when the left hand opens, the right hand then closes. If both hands are pushing towards one direction, then the body has to counter-move in the opposite direction at the same time.


Moving these three joints sounds easy, but in reality it is actually very difficult. Particularly the shoulder joint since it does not normally rotate independently. Initially, most likely the whole arm will move, or only the forearm will move. This special training needs perseverance to overcome hurdles so that eventually the joints that are not controlled by the mind will move as directed. To start with, you can be like an automaton and move section by section with a slight pause in between to ensure each joint moves independently. This can be called “square turning.” When the joint gradually begins to move separately, you can then “round the corners” mindfully and make the movements “circle turning.” When this becomes possible, then upper arm, forearm, and palm are now connected and integrated. During form practice, you have to be extremely careful to make sure moving these three joints is an objective in each movement. If you can activate the three sections of the arm sequentially with agility, and open/close with spiral and curve motions, you have taken a giant step forward in your skill level. The main focus of this type of integration exercise is to train involuntary muscle and joints to come under the control of the mind. The next step is to open up the inside of the body to establish a conduit that allows the flow and delivery of internal energy. This is the path one must follow to convert external practice into internal practice.

By Patrick SW Chan

Translated by Dominic Chan

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